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IN WHICH MR. WALKER FALLS INTO DIFFICULTIES, AND MRS. WALKER MAKES MANY FOOLISH ATTEMPTS TO RESCUE HIM.
HOPE the beloved reader is not silly enough to imagine that
Mr. Walker, on finding himself inspunged for debt in Chancery Lane, was so foolish as to think of applying to any of his friends (those great personages who have appeared every now and then in the course of this little history, and have served to give it a fashionable air). No, no; he knew the world too well: and that, though Billingsgate would give him as many dozen of claret as he could carry away under his belt, as the phrase is (I can't help it, Madam, if the phrase is not more genteel), and though Vauxhall would lend him his carriage, slap him on the back, and dine at his house; their lordships would have seen Mr. Walker depending from a beam in front of the Old Bailey rather than have helped him to a hundred pounds.
And why, forsooth, should we expect otherwise in the world? I observe that men who complain of its selfishness are quite as selfish as the world is, and no more liberal of money than their neighbours ; and I am quite sure with regard to Captain Walker that he would have treated a friend in want exactly as he when in want was treated. There was only his lady who was in the least afflicted by his captivity; and as for the club, that went on, we are bound to say, exactly as it did on the day previous to his disappearance.
By the way, about clubs-could we not, but for fear of detaining the fair reader too long, enter into a wholesome dissertation here, on the manner of friendship established in those institutions, and the noble feeling of selfishness which they are likely to encourage in the male race? I put out of the question the stale topics of complaint, such as leaving home, encouraging gormandising and luxurious habits, &c.; but look also at the dealings of club-men with one another. Look at the rush for the evening paper! See how Shiverton orders a fire in the dog-days, and Swettenham opens the
windows in February. See how Cramley takes the whole breast of the turkey on his plate, and how many times Jenkins sends away his beggarly half-pint of sherry! Clubbery is organised egotism. Club intimacy is carefully and wonderfully removed from friendship. You meet Smith for twenty years, exchange the day's news with him, laugh with him over the last joke, grow as well acquainted as two men may be together-and one day, at the end of the list of members of the club, you read in a little paragraph by itself, with all the honours,
Smith, John, Esq.;
or he, on the other hand, has the advantage of reading your own name selected for a similar typographical distinction. There it is, that abominable little exclusive list at the end of every club-catalogue -you can't avoid it. I belong to eight clubs myself, and know that one year Fitz-Boodle, George Savage, Esq. (unless it should please fate to remove my brother and his six sons, when of course it would be Fitz-Boodle, Sir George Savage, Bart.), will appear in the dismal category. There is that list; down I must go in it: the day will come, and I shan't be seen in the bow-window, some one else will be sitting in the vacant arm-chair: the rubber will begin as usual, and yet somehow Fitz will not be there. "Where's Fitz?" says Trumpington, just arrived from the Rhine. "Don't you know?" says Punter, turning down his thumb to the carpet. "You led the club, I think?" says Ruff to his partner (the other partner !), and the waiter snuffs the candles.
I hope in the course of the above little pause, every single member of a club who reads this has profited by the perusal. He may belong, I say, to eight clubs, he will die and not be missed by any of the five thousand members. Peace be to him; the waiters will forget him, and his name will pass away, and another great-coat will hang on the hook whence his own used to be dependent.
And this, I need not say, is the beauty of the club-institutions. If it were otherwise, if, forsooth, we were to be sorry when our friends died, or to draw out our purses when our friends were in want, we should be insolvent, and life would be miserable. Be it ours to button up our pockets and our hearts; and to make merry— it is enough to swim down this life-stream for ourselves; if Poverty is clutching hold of our heels, or Friendship would catch an arm, kick them both off. Every man for himself, is the word, and plenty to do too.
My friend Captain Walker had practised the above maxims so long and resolutely as to be quite aware when he came himself to be in distress, that not a single soul in the whole universe would help him, and he took his measures accordingly.
When carried to Mr. Bendigo's lock-up house, he summoned that gentleman in a very haughty way, took a blank banker's cheque out of his pocket-book, and filling it up for the exact sum of the writ, orders Mr. Bendigo forthwith to open the door and let him go forth.
Mr. Bendigo, smiling with exceeding archness, and putting a finger covered all over with diamond rings to his extremely aquiline nose, inquired of Mr. Walker whether he saw anything green about his face? intimating by this gay and good-humoured interrogatory his suspicion of the unsatisfactory nature of the document handed over to him by Mr. Walker.
"Hang it, sir!" says Mr. Walker, "go and get the cheque cashed, and be quick about it. Send your man in a cab, and here's a half-crown to pay for it." The confident air somewhat staggers the bailiff, who asked him whether he would like any refreshment while his man was absent getting the amount of the cheque, and treated his prisoner with great civility during the time of the messenger's journey.
But as Captain Walker had but a balance of two pounds five and twopence (this sum was afterwards divided among his creditors, the law expenses being previously deducted from it), the bankers of course declined to cash the Captain's draft for two hundred and odd
pounds, simply writing the words "no effects" on the paper; on receiving which reply Walker, far from being cast down, burst out laughing very gaily, produced a real five-pound note, and called upon his host for a bottle of champagne, which the two worthies drank in perfect friendship and good-humour. The bottle was scarcely finished, and the young Israelitish gentleman who acts as waiter in Cursitor Street had only time to remove the flask and the glasses, when poor Morgiana with a flood of tears rushed into her husband's arms, and flung herself on his neck, and calling him her "dearest, blessed Howard," would have fainted at his feet; but that he, breaking out in a fury of oaths, asked her how, after getting him into that scrape through her infernal extravagance, she dared to show her face before him? This address speedily frightened the poor thing out of her fainting fit-there is nothing so good for female hysterics as a little conjugal sternness, nay brutality, as many husbands can aver who are in the habit of employing the remedy.
"My extravagance, Howard?" said she, in a faint way; and quite put off her purpose of swooning by the sudden attack made upon her" Surely, my love, you have nothing to complain
"To complain of, ma'am ?" roared the excellent Walker. "Is two hundred guineas to a music-master nothing to complain of? Did you bring me such a fortune as to authorise your taking guinea lessons? Haven't I raised you out of your sphere of life and introduced you to the best of the land? Haven't I dressed you like a duchess? Haven't I been for you such a husband as very few women in the world ever had, madam ?-answer me that."
"Indeed, Howard, you were always very kind," sobbed the lady. "Haven't I toiled and slaved for you,-been out all day working for you? Haven't I allowed your vulgar old mother to come to your house-to my house, I say? Haven't I done all this ?"
She could not deny it, and Walker, who was in a rage (and when a man is in a rage, for what on earth is a wife made for but that he should vent his rage on her ?), continued for some time in this strain,
and so abused, frightened, and overcame poor Morgiana, that she left her husband fully convinced that she was the most guilty of beings, and bemoaning his double bad fortune, that her Howard was ruined and she the cause of his misfortunes.
When she was gone, Mr. Walker resumed his equanimity (for he was not one of those men whom a few months of the King's Bench were likely to terrify), and drank several glasses of punch in company with his host; with whom in perfect calmness he talked over his affairs. That he intended to pay his debt and quit the spunginghouse next day is a matter of course; no one ever was yet put in a spunging-house that did not pledge his veracity he intended to quit it to-morrow. Mr. Bendigo said he should be heartily glad to open the door to him, and in the meantime sent out diligently to see among his friends if there were any more detainers against the Captain, and to inform the Captain's creditors to come forward against him.
Morgiana went home in profound grief, it may be imagined, and could hardly refrain from bursting into tears when the sugar-loaf page asked whether master was coming home early, or whether he had taken his key; she lay awake tossing and wretched the whole night, and very early in the morning rose up, and dressed, and went out.
Before nine o'clock she was in Cursitor Street, and once more joyfully bounced into her husband's arms; who woke up yawning and swearing somewhat, with a severe headache, occasioned by the jollification of the previous night: for, strange though it may seem, there are perhaps no places in Europe where jollity is more practised than in prisons for debt; and I declare for my own part (I mean, of course, that I went to visit a friend) I have dined at Mr. Aminadab's as sumptuously as at Long's.
But it is necessary to account for Morgiana's joyfulness; which was strange in her husband's perplexity, and after her sorrow of the previous night. Well, then, when Mrs. Walker went out in the morning, she did so with a very large basket under her arm. "Shall I carry the basket, ma'am?" said the page, seizing it with much alacrity.